http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/26/02.htm

Social services are in the dock again after a toddler was left to die at the hands of a schoolboy babysitter despite repeated warnings that she was in grave danger.

Demi-Leigh Mahon, two, was punched, kicked and bitten by 15-year-old Karl McCluney, while her drug-addict mother was out collecting child benefit.

The little girl suffered at least 68 separate injuries.

As McCluney was convicted of murder the catalogue of failings by social services was finally revealed.

An independent report found that social workers should have taken action. They knew that Demi-Leigh was being raised in a drugs den.

Members of the public and neighbours had told children’s services that the child was left crying a lot and that her mother, Ann-Marie McDonald, was injecting heroin and was unable to care for her.

Police had reports of domestic abuse.

Yet at no point did social services intervene, and Demi-Leigh was never placed on the ‘at risk’ register.

The case is the second in two years in which Salford social services – branded inadequate by Ofsted in 2007 – have been found to be at fault.

However, no one has been disciplined over the errors which enabled Demi-Leigh’s mother to leave her daughter with McCluney, who had previously threatened to beat up a teacher and stab another man.

In March last year 31-year-old Miss McDonald – known as Sindy – was given a rehabilitation order after being convicted of supplying heroin and cocaine from her flat in Eccles, near Manchester. But she failed to comply and took Demi-Leigh to a friend’s flat, resulting in a warrant for her arrest.

On July 15, she left her daughter with McCluney at his father’s flat. It was his 15th birthday. When Demi-Leigh began crying he flew into a rage. He subjected the defenceless toddler to an appalling assault, punching her in the face, biting her and kicking her.

 View summaries of the case reviews here.

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http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/26/01.htm

King of pop music, Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.

As news of his death came through, CNN interviewing legend Larry King said this world is a sad place tonight.

He dies at a time when he was planning one of the biggest comebacks in pop history and was lined-up for gigs in Britain.

Zimdiaspora joins the music fans around the world in mourning the passing of the greatest entertainer of our generation. We cannot imagine the impact his death will have from around the world, including Zimbabwe, Victorial Falls and Harare where he visited in the late 1990s.

Michael suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon at his Holmby Hill home and paramedics were unable to revive him. We’re told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back.

Michael is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II.

In 2004, Jackson seriously considered a touring Zimbabwe, South Africa and Senegal to raise money to fight AIDS.

Jackson had 13 number one hits during his solo career.

Michael Jackson is referred to as King of Pop in the same manner that “The King of Rock and Roll” is given to rock legend Elvis Presley.

The title “King of Pop” was allegedly first coined by Elizabeth Taylor. The term has commonly been mistaken as being “self proclaimed” by Michael Jackson, though it was his fans that first gave him the title, which was later accepted by mainstream.

Critics have questioned whether Michael Jackson is still the King of Pop. His 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling all-original album of all time, with over 59 million records sold to date.

In February of 2005, Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video was voted No.1 on the UK Channel 4’s vote for the 100 Greatest Pop Videos of all time.

Michael Joseph Jackson (born August 29, 1958, in Gary, Indiana), is an African-American singer, dancer, screenwriter, songwriter, record producer and one of the recognizable names in the world. Jackson began his career as the lead singer of Motown act The Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s. After beginning a full-fledged solo career in 1979, Jackson went on to become one of the most successful solo artists in music history .He is known as the King of the Music Video and the King of Pop, a nickname that Elizabeth Taylor gave him in 1989 during an awards ceremony.

He has, however, been dogged by media fascination with his alleged transracially changing physical appearance and what some perceive as an eccentric lifestyle, resulting in his being nicknamed Wacko Jacko. Jackson’s skin color, which he attributes to vitiligo, is believed to have been bleached by some. Jackson uses makeup in his public appearances, and is protected from the sun by a parasol when he is outdoors. Jackson believes that the media’s coverage of him is fueled by racism. Jackson and others claimed, that in 2002, he outsold Elvis Presley, the first white rock star. Comparisons with Elvis are difficult to verify due to the lack of reliable sales information.

http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/25/14.htm

A local authority’s child protection system is due to come under fresh scrutiny.

Doncaster Children Safeguarding Board is publishing the findings of the serious case reviews into the deaths of Amy Howson and Alfie Goddard, who were both known to the town’s social services department.

The deaths placed the local authority under the national spotlight after it emerged that seven children had died while under the care of Doncaster Council’s children’s services department since 2004.

Sixteen-month-old Amy died in December 2007 after her spine was snapped in two. Her father, James Howson, 25, from Nelson Road, Doncaster, was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison.

The toddler was malnourished and dehydrated and had been punched and slapped on numerous occasions, suffering fractures to her arms, legs and ribs.

Alfie, from the Toll Bar area of Doncaster, was just three months old when he died at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in May 2008.

A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered a fatal head injury two days earlier. His father, Craig Goddard, 24, squeezed, shook and then threw him to the floor after he lost his temper when he refused to stop crying. Goddard had been drinking and had smoked several cannabis joints.

http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/25/13.htm

A judge has today spoken of her disappointment that few journalists are taking up the opportunity to report on family court proceedings.

The Ministry of Justice opened up the family courts to the media at the end of April as part of plans for greater openness in the justice system.

But Lynn Roberts, a judge at the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that, after the initial interest, journalists were not attending day-to-day hearings.

And she said it was a shame that journalists only appeared to be interested in the more high-profile cases involving celebrities.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm on the first day – I had three journalists in my court on the first day – but I haven’t seen anybody since,” she told the programme this morning.

“I think it’s going to be cases which are perceived to be of particular public interest rather than the run-of-the-mill cases, which I think in a way is a bit of shame because it would be helpful if the public got an idea of what’s happening on a day-to-day basis rather than the spectacular celebrity cases.”

Roberts added: “We have a very good system in my view and I’m quite proud of how we do things and I think it would be very good for more people to understand how we reach these very difficult decisions.”

Times journalist Camilla Cavendish, who won British Press Awards campaign of the year for her battle to open up the family courts, said: “It is still extremely unclear what we can report on and what we can read.

“The Family court relies heavily on expert witness documents, which are not accessible to the press.

http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/25/12.htm

The family of two children who died on a holiday in Corfu have reacted angrily after a manslaughter trial was delayed until February.

Christi Shepherd, seven, and her six-year-old brother Robert, of Horbury, West Yorkshire, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in October 2006.

Thomas Cook holiday reps Richard Carson, 27, and Nicola Gibson, 25, face charges of manslaughter and negligence.

The family said Thomas Cook’s request for an adjournment was “disrespectful”.

The trial was due to start on Thursday but was adjourned until 4 February after legal applications by the defendants.

Paul Wood, the children’s stepfather, read a statement saying: “Unfortunately Thomas Cook led us to believe that they wouldn’t request the case to be adjourned.

“They continue to play these games with the memory of our children Christi and Bobby and we find this extremely disrespectful.

“We flew from England at great personal cost because we have faith in the Greek justice system. Our pain for the loss of our children cannot be expressed in words.

“We wish for the legal process to come to an end soon, doing justice to our children’s memories so we can then try to rebuild our lives.”

The defendants are accused of causing manslaughter by negligence in relation to the children, and of causing bodily injury by negligence to Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson, who recovered after being overcome by fumes.

Ten Greeks, including staff from the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Gouvia, where the family were staying, were also due to be tried.

Mr Shepherd and Ms Beatson flew to Corfu for the trial, as did the children’s mother Sharon Wood and her husband Paul.

http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/25/11.htm

Opportunities to intervene before a 16-month-old girl was killed by her father “were missed” by social services and other agencies, an inquiry has found.

Amy Howson, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, had her spine snapped by her father James in December 2007.

A serious case review found the town’s children’s services team failed to take proper action to safeguard the girl, who also was beaten several times.

It identified “three key missed opportunities” to intervene.

Howson, of Nelson Road, Doncaster, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 22 years after being convicted of Amy’s murder.

Her mother Tina Hunt was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years after admitting she allowed the death of a child and child cruelty.

The serious case review referred to Amy as Child B.

In its conclusion, it said: “The murder of Child B by her father… was not predictable given the information and knowledge held on him and other family members by agencies.

“However, there was sufficient information and knowledge on family members, including (the father), held by individual agencies to conclude that, on balance, both Child B and (another child) were at risk of significant harm from him.

“Some agencies within the Doncaster multi-agency child protection system failed to follow basic safeguarding procedures and did not take proper and effective action to safeguard and promote the welfare of Child B and (the other child).”

The review also concluded an “inter-agency working and communications were deficient”.

It identified “three key missed opportunities for agencies to intervene with a proper assessment and subsequent child protection plan”.

http://www.stopinjusticenow.com/news/archive/2009/june/25/10.htm

Doncaster agencies failed to follow basic procedures in case of Amy Howson, who died when her spine was snapped by her father, says inquiry report

A series of errors meant child protection agencies missed several opportunities to intervene to protect a 16-month-old girl physically abused and finally murdered by her violent father, a inquiry has found.

Social workers, schools and health visitors all failed to follow basic safeguarding procedures in the case of Amy Howson, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, who died when her spine was broken by her father, the serious case review says. She had been punched and slapped on numerous occasions in the four weeks before her death, leaving her with fractures to her arms, legs and ribs.
A separate serious case review into the death from abuse of another Doncaster youngster, three-month-old Alfie Goddard, concluded that although there had been no prior evidence of abuse, safeguarding agencies failed to recognise important signs that he was at risk. Alfie died of head injuries after being violently shaken and thrown to the floor by his father.

Although much of the media focus on child protection in recent months has been on Haringey, the council in north London at the centre of the Baby P tragedy, Doncaster has been for some time a focus of concerns about child safeguarding. Seven children known to Doncaster’s social services have died as a result of abuse or neglect since 2004.

An Ofsted inspection last year branded children’s services in the town “inadequate”and the decision by the children’s secretary, Ed Balls, to send in outside experts to overhaul the services helped trigger the departure of former mayor, Martin Winter, who announced in March that he would not be standing for re-election.

The review into the circumstances leading up to Amy’s death in December 2007 found social workers and schools critically failed to act on two occasions when presented with evidence of aggressive behaviour by her father, James Howson.